The Man Who Bottled Clouds


Making its world premiere as part of “Premiere Brazil!”, MOMA’s annual showcase of current Brazilian filmmaking, The Man Who Bottled Clouds offers a rich 20th-century survey of the country’s music, culture, and history via the career of composer Humberto Teixeira. Director Lirio Ferreira co-wrote Clouds with Teixeira’s daughter, Denise Dummont, and in suggesting the increasingly popular “unfinished parental business” documentary structure, the ponderous opening images of Denise searching a São Paolo cemetery for her father’s grave belie the rather raucous film to come. Denise’s conversations with an assemblage of Teixeira cronies and connoisseurs have an ambling, itinerant vibe (one woman hollers her interview from an apartment window); Teixeira’s iconic patina paves most of these interactions, carrying this personal journey off into biopic territory. Connecting Teixeira’s rise and reign with the birth and dissemination of Baião music (eventually credited with siring everything from reggae to bossa nova, its “eminently earthy” rhythms initially brought the remote, hardscrabble northeast region of the country closer to the populous south), if anything Clouds suffers from its joyous, sprawling din of information, faces, and voices. It’s the quiet ballad of Margarida Jatobá (Teixeira’s second wife and Denise’s mother) that grants a grace note: For Denise and for the film, hearing of the man as he was—earthbound and impossible—finally calls him down from the clouds.